Developing to Spec: Part 9 (b) — Heighten and Maximize

This is a continuation of Part Nine of a series of articles looking at creating a set of Starfinder feats under specific constraints.  You can read long as we convert every feat in the PF core rulebook to Starfinder (and  share my thoughts on that process, as a developer and writer)— or you can just look at the finished feats (as they are written) here.

While we were going through the PF core rulebook feats in order, we’ve hit a whole class of feats that play on rules that don’t exist in Starfinder — metamagic feats. Having developed a plan for converting those (and wanting to stay consistent with our development), it seems smart to tackle all the rest of the metamagic feats before we move on to the next in alphabetical order.

So, that brings us to Heighten Spell and Maximize Spell.

Heighten Spell is tricky, because so little is tied to spell level in Starfinder, and there’s already a mechanism or three in place to adjust spell DC. However, Starfinder does have variable-level spells, which are a totally different thing that could be “heightened” without totally disrupting game balance (if properly defined and limited).

You can get the most out of your variable-level spells.
Prerequisites: Know a variable-level spell with a higher-spell-level variant you do not know, but can cast spells of that level.
 You can expend one Resolve Point to cast a spell using a higher-level spell slot, to gain the benefits of the higher-level version of that spell even if you do not know the higher-spell-level version. Any decisions you must make when you learn the higher-level version (such as what creatures you can summon with a higher-level summon creature spell) you make the first time you use this ability, and cannot change until you gain a new character level.

That’s not *simple*, but it does stick with exiting Starfinder rules, rather than introducing a whole new subsystem. I’d likely playtest the wording with some friends before turning it over to a publisher, if I had time.

Now, Maximize Spell… which is a whole new issue. The PF version let’s you cast a lower-level spell with a three-spell-level-higher slot, to maximize all its effects. The math on that would be a nightmare to graft to Starfinder in an effective way, and it always encouraged alpha-strikes taking out everything in the first round of an encounter. But, how do we do SOMETHING with this that can be considered to maximize a spell, without introducing metamagic or breaking Starfinder?

There are lots of things we could do. Require the caster to expend a grenade with an item level at least triple the spell level… but that feels very technomancer. We could allow maximum damage on a critical hit with a spell, but mathematically that’s not great, and it doesn’t come up that often.

On the other hand, the fact spell damage tends not to scale in Starfinder means we might just be able to let spellcasters do maximum damage, under carefully-controlled circumstances. This extends the utility of lower-level spells, but also makes sure the spellcaster is taking a risk to do so.

You can get the most effect out of your lower-level spells.
Prerequisites: Able to cast a spell at least 3 spell levels higher than your lowest-level spell.
Benefit: When you cast a spell with a casting time of 1 standard action, that is at least 3 spell levels lower than the highest-level spell you can cast, you may cast it with a casting time of 1 round. The spell is not completed until just before you turn on the next round, and if before that time you take any damage from either a successful attack that targeted your AC or from an effect that you failed a saving throw against, the spell fails.
The sp or hp damage done by the spell is maximized, rather than rolled normally.

Tomorrow, we tackle Quicken Spell and Silent Spell… for a game that doesn’t have verbal components.

Like all my blog posts, this is brought to you by the wonderful patrons of my Patreon! Want more of this content? Want to suggest specific game systems, topics, of kinds of articles? All of that is only possible if people join my Patreon, help me have the free time to write these things, and let me know what you want to see!


About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on October 30, 2019, in Business of Games, Game Design, Starfinder Development and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: